I did not serve hamburger to my kids at our Memorial Day Barbecue – again. Perhaps after 16 years of Litigating E. coli cases make me more wary than most, or perhaps it is the facts that on family of a seven year old is mourning the loss of their child – because she ate a hamburger. When is the Meat Industry going to get it?
The presence of E. coli O157:H7 in hamburger was defined as an adulterant under the Federal Meat Inspection Act in 1994. However, recalls of E. coli O157:H7 contaminated meat and related illnesses continued over the next decade to grow, as did my law firm. Oddly too, and with near regularity, E. coli O157:H7 recalls and illnesses seemed to begin in the Spring and peak in late Summer and Fall from 1993 through 2002.
After 24 million pounds of contaminated beef were recalled in 34 separate incidents in 2002, recalls dropped off to just over a million pounds a year for the next three years, and then to just 181,900 pounds in 2006. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention saw E. coli O157:H7 – related illnesses drop 48% between 2000 and 2006.
The reality is that from 1993 through 2002, children sickened with E. coli O157:H7 tainted hamburger made up the bulk of my law practice. However, as E. coli O157:H7 hamburger recalls fell from 2003 through the end of 2006, I wondered if the law firm would survive. Springs just simply were not the same.
But then came Spring 2007. E. coli O157:H7, which begins its life in the hindgut of a cow, mounted a surge on its home court. And, it came back with a vengeance. Since the Spring of 2007, forty-four million pounds of beef have been recalled in 25 incidents due to E. coli O157:H7. And, I am now back in the meat business, and look to Spring not just for the beginning of hay fever season.